During the past few months I have joined my cousin Carletta Thompson and others in pursuing a Highway Marker to recognize Thompson Institute in Lumberton. This marker is meant to commemorate the work done by the Lumber River Association in 1881 to bring education to that part of the state. They pooled their meager resources with those of some outside funders to establish a boarding school that serviced not only students from nearby counties but also attracted students from as far away as New York.
What is astounding is that people only 16 years removed from slavery would see the importance of education to the future of African Americans and work so tirelessly even before the advent of public schools to make sure it was provided and we were prepared. Unfortunately, the last building of that school was torn down in 1984. But today the site still serves the education needs of the surrounding community through Knuckles Elementary.
After two failed attempts, the highway marker at the Thompson Institute was finally approved by the entire committee of the state of NC Historic Markers Commission in New Bern . The work of Alice Briley and that of Carletta Thompson is to be commended. This, when erected next spring, will become the first marker in tribute to African American history erected, to my knowledge, in Robeson County. It will long stand as testimony to the vision and commitment by our forefathers to our future success.
We often forget the contributions made by others to our current condition. We are the product of many sacrifices made by others who had to endure more strenuous circumstances. They worked, bled, died and persevered. Their contributions are often lost to the bulldozer of progress. We have too few shrines that remember just how hard they worked. We are not a community without history. It is often glorious.
We must take it upon ourselves to remember. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. We cannot go back. We will not go back.